The tides of March ended with another win, as the wave of optimism and positivity continued. This latest win made it five from six in the month and a whopping thirteen games unbeaten now, as Ian Evatt’s super white army march on.
A familiar theme to this one, as we did just enough to see off the threat of Forest Green Rovers and leapfrog the Nailsworth-based club into 3rd, to sit temporarily in the automatic promotion places for the first time this season.
Everyone did their job to a tee in seeing out the game after Eoin Doyle’s textbook volley from Nathan Delfouneso’s pinpoint cross had given us the lead six minutes before the break, after an even first half.
It wouldn’t be beyond credulity to give the veteran Irish goal-getter the MOTM award, as his was the vital contribution in a game that was always going to be settled by fine margins. Yet I can’t bring myself to give the award to someone who’s overall contribution to the game was so negligible, although I must stress that isn’t Doyle’s fault and more about our willingness to play with the handbrake on and protect our lead.
There are several worthy recipients once again, including the ever reliable Alex Baptiste and Ricardo Santos, although the big man was beaten for pace by Aaron Collins in the only clear cut chance the Green Devils created all game. The Welsh forward took a great first touch and surged past the big man squaring the ball in front of goal, only for on-loan Charlton striker Josh Davison to take an unnecessary touch, losing possession, when a first-time strike of any decent connection would’ve surely had Matt Gilks beat.
My award goes to a guy who’s signing went under the radar on a busy deadline day and who’s first few games for the club certainly had me and a number of other Trotters questioning his calibre and what he had in his locker that Andrew Tutte didn’t.
That is of course, MJ Williams.
What’s become clear though is Ian Evatt had identified a weakness in our team, despite some very assured performances at times from Tutte. He felt MJ Williams’ physicality and nous was the best option to come in and eradicate that soft underbelly which had led to us often going behind early in games and letting teams dominate us physically and psychologically at times.
The fact that we’ve not lost a single game with MJ in the team is one of those statistics which are sometimes used to enhance a player’s importance to a side but I’ve delved back into his Blackpool appearances this season too and only twice did he start a game that the Tangerines lost.
He wasn’t brilliant in possession on Saturday and there may well be people who scoff at my choice but he was absolutely everywhere when FGR had the ball; harassing, harrying and nipping in to make vital interceptions or even just putting off their player enough so they made a poor pass or decision under his constant pressure.
These are the unnoticed moments that allow us the platform to express ourselves and give us the safety of knowing that one moment of quality could and probably should win us a game. Away from home particularly, this sort of contribution is absolutely monumental in my opinion and I wanted to recognise that fact.
While rarely blowing any team away, we are playing with an assuredness and control in our game now that bodes so well for when our attacking players, such as Dapo Afolayan, finally hit their straps and start adding goals to their bright and committed performances.
Forest Green’s luck was certainly out after the horrific and horrifically unlucky injury to their talismanic target man Jamile Matt (get well soon!) so early in the encounter. Add that to the fact they were missing their best midfielder Ebou Adams and creative Scottish wing-back Nicky Cadden through injury already, it really illustrates how we had a big rub of the green down in Gloucestershire.
We seem to have perhaps used a decades worth of luck in one eight-week spell but the work Evatt and co. have done behind the scenes, allied to that pivotal January transfer window, looks like it could well take us all the way to automatic promotion from a position of utter despair, after our second loss to historical rivals Tranmere back on the 23rd January.
Colchester is a potential banana skin given their lowly league position but I have every faith in Evatt that his troops will be single-minded, focused and ready for the early kick-off on Good Friday, when making it 12 wins from 14 will be essential to keep the pressure up on the top three.